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Trapped in Space

I’ve already told you about my scariest flying experience on a turboprop at a small airport in Ohio, but if you haven’t read that and somehow ended up on this anecdote, read that first and come back to this story. We’ll wait.

In 2016 my spouse and I were invited to the wedding of dear friends who live in England. We had just been in England the year before for work, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to attend our friends’ wedding on the Dartmoor, which was being officiated by another close friend.

One of the things that has been added to my packing list recently is a medicine prescribed by my doctor for my flying anxieties. A drug that is used for a variety of treatments, but for me it stop my heart from racing, which can lead to anxiety or something resembling a panic attack. It also apparently can interfere with memory formation, which I think helps?

When we boarded this particular flight to London, and I took my prescribed dose about 15 minutes beforehand. Once on the plane I was pleased to hear the captain state that the flight was expected to be smooth and on time. I settled into my seat, put in earplugs, put on my noise canceling headphones, and started paging through the in-flight entertainment center to look for 5 or so hours worth of things to distract me.

I’m not afraid to fly,  I’m not afraid, 

Yea, I guess I’m afraid. 

Fear is a good thing,  It teaches us humility, 

And it can keep us sane. 

So I’ll fly high if I have to, if I could, I’d take the train.

moe., “Plane Crash

People ask what I specifically dislike about flying, and I have a hard time conveying why it is such an unpleasant experience for me. It all bothers me. The food, the security, the other passengers. More accurately it all overwhelms me. If forced to choose; however, I would say that my least favorite part is immediately after take off when the pilot eases off the throttle and I feel like I am falling through space. I want to shout, “Give ‘er some gas, for f#@k sake!” That’s the worst.

Please don’t message me with your tips and suggestions for getting past these challenges. I know my fears are irrational, and I have tried methods to reduce the anxiety, but only the drugs seem to make it tolerable — for me and my spouse. Ultimately this story is about how cool my wife can be under pressure.

Despite the smooth sailing bullshit chatter from the captain prior to take off, the first 3 plus hours of the trip was constant turbulence. When I saw the flight attendants preparing to pass out the scheduled meal, I became agitated. I had appeared chill on the outside so my wife was taken by surprise when I whisper-snapped at the attendant.

When it was my turn to choose my meal, I instead asked why it had been so bumpy for so long when the captain had promised a smooth flight. The reply was “well, apparently he lied!” with a chuckle. This didn’t help and I replied that I didn’t find that at all funny. My heart was racing, and I was shaking somewhat.

My wife grabbed my arm, and held it tightly against my arm rest. She spoke quietly, not to me, but to the flight attendants. She told them that I was a nervous passenger and that I was on medication to handle it. She asked them to please walk away and she would deal with me. They both walked away. No questions asked.

When they had left my wife whispered in my ear in the same firm, quiet tone she had used with the flight attendants, and told me that I needed to calm down. That she was concerned they would land the plane and escort me off in handcuffs; and how that was not acceptable.

I admit, I stewed for a bit. I was cranky, and having missed the meal service — no matter how bad it may have been — I was likely hangry as well.

But I did calm down.

The turbulence subsided.

It didn’t go away completely, but it was not constant. A few hours later we landed without further incident, and had a lovely time at the wedding. We helped set up for the reception, and we made more new friends.

On the return flight I took a second dose of my prescription spaced a few hours later, and thankfully we had an uneventful trip home. I am grateful for my wife’s intervention on that first flight. Flying is still very hard, but I have learned my lesson and won’t engage in the future. I will still be medicated.